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Environmental Audit Committee critical of government heatwave mitigation plans

Whitehall commitments to address health risks from overheating in UK buildings is criticised by parliamentary oversight body for failing to take up its key recommendations

A lack of coordination between government departments and a failure to rethink funding for modular homes is hindering efforts to curb overheating in UK buildings, according to parliament’s Environmental Audit Committee. The warning has been issued amidst fears of more regular and intense heatwaves across the country over the next three decades as a result of climate change.

MP Mary Creagh, chair of the audit committee, said that government failed to acknowledge a number of its core conclusions in response to a report released earlier this year into the potential public health impacts of an increased number of heat waves in the UK up to 2050

She said the report had warned that heat-related deaths were expected to treble by 2050 without significant government action to support new legislation and approaches to building design that would ensure properties were more resilient against higher temperatures.

Ms Creagh added that government must act to ensure an aging UK population is protected from risks posed by heatwaves in line with its commitments to create more sustainable cities. The committee has argued that government had failed to accept significant parts of its advice to realise these aims.

Ms Creagh said, “There is a worrying lack of co-ordination across government, and the government’s admission that all new properties are prone to overheating is astonishing.”

“We are particularly disappointed that the government have decided to press ahead with using public money to build modular homes, which are particularly vulnerable to overheating, flooding and only last fifty years.”

Government response

Addressing concerns raised in the report that urged the use of a dynamic thermo-modelling test, the government said it was reviewing energy efficiency standards as part of efforts to reform Building Regulations. It additionally cited a planned Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) consultation to reduce overheating risks in new homes

The government’s response said, “A range of methods will be considered to demonstrate compliance with the new requirement [on overheating risks]. The method must be practical for house builders.”

Government said it had also introduced a ministerial lead to take responsibility for climate change-related health risks within the Department for Health and Social Care (DHSC).

The response to the committee stated, “DHSC has a ministerial lead on climate change related health risks; currently the parliamentary under secretary of state for public health and primary care.

“The minister works in close collaboration with the parliamentary under secretary of state for rural affairs and biosecurity, who has the responsibility in government for climate change adaptation, and with ministers across Whitehall to ensure that health is embedded within climate and adaptation related policy, taking into account the advice of the Committee on Climate Change.”

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